This week, Street interviewed Jameel Mohammed, a junior and casual superstar fashion designer who launched KHIRY, his own collection, in summer 2014. Mohammed recently raised over $25,000 on KickStarter for his newest season.
Street: Tell us about yourself. What do you study? Who are you?
Jameel Mohammed: I’m a junior in the College studying Political Science. I’m originally from Chicago. When I’m not working on KHIRY, or (less frequently) on school work, I’m out dancing, watching documentaries on Netflix, listening to an NPR podcast or sketching.
Street: What got you interested in jewelry?
JM: I actually started out in apparel, with a couple design internships in high school. I designed and made a couple of collections of clothes in high school and freshman year, and I knew I wanted to start a business while in college, but I couldn’t afford to make a full collection of womenswear. As it happened, I’d also made a couple of necklaces, which caught the eye of the Barneys fashion office, and they gave me a ton of support and encouragement to develop even more as a jewelry designer. And thus, KHIRY was born.
Street: What inspired KHIRY?
JM: KHIRY is inspired by the African diaspora, and it’s all about identifying the connections between different cultures in the diaspora, and reinterpreting traditional cultural elements in a contemporary way. I founded KHIRY because so much of the fashion industry’s perspective on beauty and luxury is inspired only by European culture and history, leaving so much cultural depth unexplored.
Street: How many seasons has KHIRY had already?
JM: I started designing under the KHIRY name in the summer of 2014. But our first real collection was designed last summer, so we’re only one season in.
Street: What aspects within these cultures of the African diaspora do you look at for inspiration?
JM: It’s really sort of random what aspects of culture appeal to me. I was a dancer, so of course I love music and dance, but I also love a lot of modernist African fashion, sculptures, architecture, famous people and histories. I take a wide look, and then narrow in on a few specific references from there.
Street: Tell us about the challenges of KHIRY and of being both a student and an entrepreneur.
JM: It’s definitely tough sometimes because there’s really always something I could and should be doing. That being said, I’m happier now, even despite all of the added pressure. I’m really proud and excited to have the opportunity.
Street: You recently had a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $25,000. How did you do it?
JM: It was really just a marathon of press and marketing. We really exploited every network, every platform, every audience that we had access to. It was a great opportunity to test some of our assumptions about who our customers are and the most effective ways to reach them.
Street: Now that you've raised the money, what are your next steps?
JM: We’re starting production. There’s a lot of details to work out, from the exact thicknesses of plated metal, to what the boxes and packaging will look like when they’re opened. It’s tough but also incredibly cool to see things begin to come together in a very serious way.